Hammons Employment Leadership Program (HELP) consists of 3 main programs:
- Career Clubs at Coastal Bend Middle and High Schools, which gives students the opportunity to visit with speakers from dozens of career fields and employers and enroll for a Field Trip as well as internships to those employers, and scholarships to obtain future career and technical training
- On Site Career Mentoring, which takes disabled students to see jobs where none may have existed before, and middle and high school students on “Field Trips” to over 120 job sites to gain firsthand knowledge of available careers.
- Second Chance Mentoring, in which students who have run afoul of the law are shown career options they may pursue as an alternative to the harmful choices they previously made. This last program is part of our monthly effort at the Juvenile Justice Center, from which we have taken well over 4,000 students on excursions into the real world of work.
In addition to these three main on-going elements, we pursue other aspects of working with at-risk students. One of the most successful programs in our decade of operation has been the SPICE (Summer Partners in Career Exploration) Program, during which students got first-hand experience in over 30 careers ranging from nursing to welding to oceanography. They experience these career choices at Del Mar College, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, and the Craft Training Center, each of which has its own special place in the types of careers students may pursue. In each program element, we provide transportation, insurance for the agency we are visiting and ourselves, lunch, training and evaluation of both the program and the efforts of each participant.
HELP takes realistic visits to many work sites, including the Police Academy, local hospitals, Kiewit Offshore Services, and Coast Guard facilities. The Corpus Christi Police Department hosts “Cadet For a Day,” a program specially designed for HELP students that allows them to see the inner workings of the cadet training center, with exercises like physical training and nutrition, SWAT demonstration, and marksmanship instruction in the shooting range complete with good guys, bad guys, “hostages” and glue bullets.
A dozen students explore Valero Refinery, on one of the three visits that comprise their top-to-bottom tour of the refinery. They don blue lab coats to enter the laboratory, where they are shown different liquid products that are fashioned from the crude oil Valero buys from around the world. They see the ship docks, the blending area, engineering - tracing the path the crude takes from its arrival through the refinery’s processes to its departure as many different products from gasoline to naphthalene.
Their next stop may be Christus Spohn Shoreline, where the students don scrubs, travel through the emergency ward, debride patients, clean wounds, bandage sores, and splint broken bones. They help “give birth” in the mechanical pediatric ward, and care for the “baby” during its first hours of life. Traveling through the teaching clinics, they learn how to fix broken bones, sterilize a wound, take a blood sample, and more.
As should be plain, HELP consists of many interlocking programs, all of which are based around one central theme – employment options are a great way to keep students involved in school. After all, why do students go to school? They often are simply there to avoid trouble or family issues, and that may suffice to keep them in school if they have a strong support system, but they can only truly succeed when they have a goal. Often, the goal of meaningful and rewarding employment can be part of the solution for these kids. HELP relies on mentoring programs, which have always proven to be effective interventions with troubled youth; some sort of mentoring is always found in every HELP Program, and we have demonstrated how truly effective this can be.
On-Site Career Mentoring (OSCM) is the hallmark program of HELP. Its purpose is to provide job-site presentations by skilled practitioners in a variety of fields to increase academic interest, while assisting the youth in exploring potential career options. OSCM-based programs have won various accolades, including the Governor’s Mentoring Award, the Coastal Bend’s Success for All Students Award, and the TASA's bold educational moves forward award in conjunction with Valero, Flint Hills, CITGO and others.
Some of the career exposures HELP has developed include welding, electrician, pipe fitter, instrumentation specialist, scaffold, industrial painter / coater, plumber and many other technical trades. In each case, students receive instruction in safety, tools necessary for the trade, as well as instruction in the operation and maintenance of those tools. HELP has been responsible for numerous youth receiving an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) certificate. The OSHA certification is required to work in many trade industries, including refinery employment, so these students have gained a “hand up,” not a handout.
Besides these technical trades, HELP has placed students in more professional mentoring relationships with nurses, anesthesiologists, therapists, rehab counselors, emergency medical technicians, and other medical personnel. We have explored the financial world, and visited with clerks, tellers and computer operators.
We have also seen a great number of positions in the refining and manufacturing world, including logistical planners, warehouse operators, pipe-fitters, pumpers, hole operators, instrumentation techs, meter readers, construction operators, bauxite controllers, machinists, distributors, auto and aircraft mechanics, personnel directors, and numerous other operator positions.
HELP uses evidence-based practices, program evaluations, and performance measures to determine the value of its efforts. It is important to note that mentees are not the only participants in our programs who experience positive outcomes. Research indicates that our mentors have experienced an improved sense of accomplishment and increased understanding of the skills taught to mentees. Ultimately, the community also benefits from our programs with increased employment skills, decreased juvenile offense rates, a teenage population that has increased employment readiness skills, and improved familial relationships.
HELP enjoys a great deal of community involvement; at our 7 fund-raisers, over 100 local businesses and individuals have offered support for our efforts, including all three and current Mayors of Corpus Christi , City of Corpus Christi City Council, the Nueces County Commissioner’s Board, as well as the police, sheriff, fire and other public safety communities. Numerous local judges and public figures, as well as state and federal representatives have participated in our fundraisers.
Our Board includes many local and area notable business and professional leaders. We enjoy close relationships with the local independent school districts, colleges, universities and training facilities, as well as the City of Corpus Christi and Nueces County. Our trustees are active on many local civic, municipal and nonprofit Boards of Directors.
In addition to updating its website (www.helphelp.us) and its Facebook page with its events, HELP publishes a monthly one-page online newsletter and report, known as INSITE, in which its most significant efforts are featured. This easy-to-use report symbolizes the very basic and user-friendly interface that lies at the center of all HELP’s activities – we take people in need of jobs to where the jobs are so they can find the “job of their dreams” and know that they have a goal that we can HELP them achieve.
We hosted HELP Hits the High Notes (November 2018), our annual fund-raiser, the funds from which help us secure employment for a many young people with disabilities. We have been approached by a newly appointed judge who was impressed with our work with the Juvenile Justice Center, to ask us to develop a program that will assist in the remediation of older offenders and offer them non-punitive restitution.
Each month, HELP accepts students from a number of referring agencies such as the Nueces County Juvenile Justice Center, the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitation Services (DARS) agency of the State of Texas, as well as those referred to us by local educational outlets and even some who are self-reported, looking for the “job of their dreams.”
It is our intention to continue to assist young (and not so young) people to improve their employment options. Whether it is through our membership in the Education Consortium for people with disabilities, so-called Second Chancers who need extra HELP to find meaningful work, or to support challenged children to become a meaningful part of the work force, becoming a functioning participant in the economy our mission is to grow our community with a qualified workforce.
Regardless of the need, HELP will continue to offer its assistance. HELP, a local non-profit, assists at-risk youth and disabled people discover career options they may have never considered.
In the past ten years, since HELP’s inception, we have taken over 4,000 students from 26 schools on over 250 trips to more than 120 worksites throughout the Coastal Bend.